Sunday, December 24, 2006

THE RECEIVING LINE: A NECESSARY EVIL?: PART I

The speeches. The "first" dances (and the various combos thereof--i.e., bride and groom, groom and mother, bride and father, bride's father and bride's mother, groom's father and groom's mother. ETC. ETC. ETC.). The cake cutting. And what I like to call "wedding specific" traditions (cultural or otherwise).

What do all of the above-referenced items have in common? They are all facets of the wedding reception, and make me wonder: given that a reception is really only a few precious hours, have weddings become too regimented and too rote? The various elements have added food for thought.

As a frequent guest at weddings, I find that the events I enjoy most are those with fewer "wedding-y" type of "activities" (like having to sit down and listen to an endless array of toasts, for example)--and more time to hang out with friends, dance with my date, and take in my surroundings.

The receiving line, which is the subject of this series, is one of the elements of a wedding that many people integrate, but may be unnecessary. In order to "cut the fat", so to speak, it's important to remember a few things with respect to the receiving line.

First off, what is it, really? According to Peggy Post's "Q & A" on the Wedding Channel website, "A receiving line is a traditional and organized way for the wedding party to greet guests, after the ceremony or upon their arrival at the reception." A receiving line can include you and your new-husband, as well as your mothers, in addition to other relatives (there is no set formula, and the number of those you include is at your discretion).

There are several factors one must take into account when thinking about the appropriateness of a receiving line. Although these factors cannot be taken independently of one another, I am going to separate them, one-by-one, in this new series. Keep them all in mind when thinking about the topic.

The first question is: WHAT TYPE OF WEDDING ARE YOU HAVING?

The level of formality of the reception comes into play here, and I'll use my mother's wedding as an example. Having been married to my father over thirty years ago (hard to believe), my mother had a large cocktail party reception at a Manhattan hotel. As the older and wiser version of the Wedding Fairy, my mom gave me her thoughts about receiving lines--tied to her own experience thirty+ years back: "Usually, people have them right after the ceremony in the cocktail room--but then you sort of miss the whole cocktail hour. Since I had a cocktail party wedding, we had a receiving line, but as the party went on for a long time, it actually gave the party some structure."

BigSis, on the other hand, had a cocktail reception AND sit-down dinner. If BigSis had the receiving line (either at the beginning of the cocktail hour or the actual dinner reception), she and her husband may have been doing formal meet-and-greets for most of the cocktail hour. Presumably, she still would have included the more formal elements of the dinner reception that I talked about above (including the speeches, cupcake presentation (in lieu of cake cutting), etc. In turn, not only would BigSis have missed getting to relax at her own cocktail hour, but the wedding may have seemed regimented and on a schedule. While a wedding planner may plan a wedding on a certain "schedule" (wedding speech, then dancing, dinner, then another speech, etc.), guests should never FEEL like that's the case. Keep that in mind when thinking about the receiving line--especially as the type of wedding you have may come into play.

Stay tuned!

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